• Posted on Mar 05, 2017


      A few takeaways from the GOP Forum at VGM which I attended on Saturday, Feb. 25 in Waterloo.

    • Conservative social proprieties were evident throughout the two-hour meeting: decorum, orderliness, hierarchy and authority (one man controlled the discussion for all two hours), religiosity, (they began with a prayer), patriotism (they also began with the Pledge of Allegiance and placed an open American flag on their table) and tradition—no signage, no disorder of any kind were allowed.  The message was:  we’re in control. 
    • No criticism of (m) President Trump* was allowed. When a young women asked about how anyone could support him, the moderator cut her off. 
    • Walt Rogers insisted that “collective bargaining has not been damaged” in his response to a UNI faculty member who insisted that the University’s United Faculty union’s bargaining rights had been gutted. When the hooting and loud disagreeing started, the moderator immediately shut them down.  This is a long argument that I’ll continue elsewhere.  (See “Did Walter Rogers Lie?” above) 
    • Several bills which are on the table in the current legislator may or may not get anywhere: allowing mentally ill people to purchase guns, the bottle/can deposit bill, capital punishment and others which have been part of the fabric of Iowa life for decades.  The message here was:  contact your legislators and tell them what you think.  (Unfortunately, the GOP’s recent track record of actually listening to constituents is utterly dismal.)
    • Waterloo City Council member Pat Morrissey told the panel that “Home rule has been eviscerated” by the legislature with their recent actions on a state minimum wage, civil rights, and other new initiatives.  Morrissey asked them why they would overrule a city’s initiatives to make life better for citizens—and that home rule was a big step toward doing that.  The panel had no real answers—Rogers citing competition as though it were bad. (And here I thought Republicans were all for free market competition—which home rule does encourage.)
    • One interesting exchange occurred between Justin Scott, a local atheist and activist, and Walt Rogers.  Scott asked if GOP legislators are basing legislative decisions on scientific evidence and not faith—using abortion as an example of faith-based objections that might become law.    Rogers insisted that religions do run institutions for the general good—such as hospitals.  “What’s the difference between a religiously-run hospital and religiously-run school?” he asked Justin Scott.    Scott gave no clear answer—and I wish he had:  It’s ideology.  A hospital, no matter who runs it, is bound to abide by health care rules and laws.  Their religious ideology makes no difference to the care of patients.  In a religious school, in contrast, religious ideology pervades everything—from classes to lessons to prayers during school hours.  This should be unconstitutional if supported by taxpayer dollars. 
    • How is the GOP going to avoid misusing their power?  Do they have any checks and balances in place other than their own good will?   When one party has all the power, very bad things can happen.  That’s the question that needs to get asked, over and over. 
    • The contrast between Friday morning’s Parkersburg town hall with Senator Grassley and this “forum” could not be more stark:  this one was controlled, managed so as to keep questions within narrow parameters, and clearly meant to show that the GOP is the party of tradition, authority, and control.  The Grassley town hall was exciting, engaging, freewheeling, and open to all thoughts of anyone on anything, and ranged from eloquent to silly and all points in between.  
    • Parkersburg was democracy in action; the VGM forum was the Iowa Republican party in action. 

    * (m) before President Trump serves as a reminder that he was elected by a minority of the electorate.  

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  • A Tale of Two Coaches

    • Posted on Mar 27, 2016
    Here's this morning's Courier column--does God intervene in basketball games?
    Happy Easter.   

    “To God be the glory!” exclaimed Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy after their utterly improbable win over UNI Sunday night. His team had come back in the last 38 seconds from a 12-point deficit to tie, then to win in double overtimes against the Panthers. 

     Coming off the floor, he insisted that his players prayed their way to victory. 

     In contrast, UNI Coach Ben Jacobsen at the postgame NCAA press conference struggled with words, explaining,  “unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of just a crazy thirty seconds—you know, we aren’t ever going to be able to have an answer for, nor do we need one.  It just happened to go that way.”

     Three of his senior players, Paul Bohannon, Matt Jesperson, and Wes Washpun, sat beside him, looking utterly exhausted and disappointed.  They had been beaten down not only by the furious pace of the game, but also by the shocking turnaround from winners to losers in just over a half-minute.   

    Jacobsen forged ahead by supporting his players, saying “but everything that happened to get to that point—these are three of the finest young men and three of the best guys we’ve ever had come through our program, and I’m extremely proud of them.” 

     They had just experienced an epic game loss they will relive for years, though they won’t blame coach Jacobson for it.  Nor themselves.  Nor God.   

     So, did God answer the A&M coach and team’s fervent prayers for a win?  Or, as Jacobson insisted, did it just happen for reasons they’ll never clearly understand?  And don’t need to?  

     As much as we all hope for a supernatural entity that will intervene when she/he/it hears enough prayers, that’s an empty hope.  In the ringing phrases of the Old Testament’s Ecclesiastes (9:11, to be exact) “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

     Anyone who gets past kindergarten knows this to be true.  We’re all subject to time and chance, and to suggest that we didn’t pray hard or long enough comes perilously close to blaming the victim.   

     Teams win or lose because of a variety of events all emerging, creating a win or loss.  We call them “perfect storms” now, but it’s the same as the Biblical “time and chance.”   

     Most important, Coach Jacobson handled the loss exactly right by graciously thanking his team, complimenting the winners, and moving on.   

     To praise or blame anyone feeds resentment, creates false responsibilities, and ultimately calls into question one’s faith.  That’s the irony of thanking God for winning.

    If God helped you win, what about when you lost?  Isn’t blame the logical response?  So I compliment Coach Jacobsen for taking the Ecclesiastes route, admitting that time and chance happened to the team.  

    That’s true, and it’s the long-term best attitude.   

     The A&M Coach’s insistence that God helped them win amounts to a lack of faith in his players and their last-minute burst of strategy, energy, and lucky breaks.     


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    Posted in
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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